‘Reality’ slant has fight in spotlight

There are whackings, and then there’s plain wacky.

Watch “The Sopranos” on Sunday nights, and you’re sure to see one. Stay tuned to HBO a half hour later, and you’ll get the other.

Some 1.4 million U.S. households did just that the other night, and for many the glimpse was their first into the life of Floyd Mayweather Jr., a boxer HBO would love to turn into a household name — and quick.

Oscar De La Hoya is already that, or as much of a household name as anyone who hits another person in the head for money these days can be. He’s the Golden Boy, and he’s the reason Mayweather will be making millions to fight May 5 for the 154-pound title.

People pay to watch De La Hoya, who has built a nice franchise for himself as the game’s most popular fighter. Now HBO is betting a prime-time spot that Mayweather will give even more people reason to cough up $54.95 for the fight.

Officially, the title of the show is “De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7.” The premise is that it’s a reality show taking you inside the lives of De La Hoya and Mayweather as they prepare for one of the most anticipated fights in recent years.

The run will be short, with only three more episodes planned before the fight itself. But this series may have more of a future than the suits at HBO originally thought.

First, though, is advice for the people at the studio: Toss out De La Hoya’s part. He’s too perfect for reality television, with his instant smile, beautiful wife, singer Millie Corretjer, and sprawling estate in Puerto Rico.

You can watch him drink a cup of espresso, watch the Masters on television or play with his five dogs only so many times. It’s cute when he spars playfully with his wife, but the only drama in his life comes when he steps into the ring.

Bring in Mayweather and his clan, though, and you’ve got must-see Sunday night TV.

Mayweather is the bad guy in this fight promotion, and he plays his part well. He taunts De La Hoya, calls him names you can’t repeat here or on network TV and even went so far as to steal his bag during their 11-city tour promoting the fight.

He’s been kind of a bad boy in real life, too, even while building a 37-0 record and a reputation as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter. Mayweather likes to toss $100 bills around in nightclubs, has been in and out of courtrooms and fancies himself as a sort of rap producer.

At one point in the first show, Mayweather is shown with his entourage getting a haircut in his Las Vegas mansion. Through a doorway comes rapper 50 Cent, riding a Segway into the scene.

“He’s the villain in rap music,” Mayweather says. “I’m the villain in boxing.”

Rappers usually are interesting, but Mayweather’s relationship with his family is what makes the most compelling TV. They’re the first family of boxing, but this family is more dysfunctional than the one Tony Soprano runs.

His father is an ex-con and ex-fighter who spouts his own form of homegrown poetry and trains fighters. Floyd Sr. trained De La Hoya for five years and was going to help him beat up his son, but De La Hoya wouldn’t meet his $2 million salary demand.

Mayweather’s uncle also is an ex-con and ex-fighter who trains fighters. Roger Mayweather was in jail much of the past year but got out just in time to resume training Floyd Jr. for this fight.

Son and father didn’t talk for years before reconciling a few months ago. Father and uncle still don’t talk, which makes for some interesting moments in the gym.

Reality TV doesn’t get any more real than this.

Actually, to me, the first show seemed almost more like an infomercial than a reality series. Maybe that’s because I already know the principal players and the story lines, and a half hour was necessary to introduce those who don’t to the various plots and subplots.

But the 40 percent or so of viewers who stayed tuned after “Entourage” still got a taste of what’s to come, and better stuff ahead is promised.

Will Floyd Jr. and Floyd Sr. regain their father-son relationship? Will Floyd Sr. and Roger start talking to each other? Will Floyd Jr. allow his father to work his corner in the fight? Will 50 Cent fall off his Segway?

Will De La Hoya throw a fit if his espresso machine breaks?

Give HBO credit for doing the show, even if it is self-serving since the network is trying to sell a fight for its pay-per-view division. Boxing is in a world of hurt these days, and anything the network can do to get people talking about it again is a positive for the sport.

The fight itself will be one of the biggest in years, and, should Mayweather win as the oddsmakers expect him to, he could rival De La Hoya as boxing’s biggest draw.

Especially if those new reality show offers start coming in.

“Those Wacky Mayweathers” has a nice ring to it.

Tim Dahlberg is a Las Vegas-based national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org.

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